Chris Bohjalian is one of my favorite authors, so I was particularly pleased when I was provided advance access to his new novel, “Close Eyes, Hold Hands.” Though the protagonist is a teenaged girl, don’t confuse this for YA literature.*
Emily Shepard is your average under-achieving suburban high-schooler, until the nuclear power plant in her town melts down. Compounding matters, her father, is being singled out as the individual directly at fault. The plot nicely combines a coming of age story with the semi-apocalyptic backdrop of nuclear disaster, in a format that is written for adults. There is adventure without any skimping on the character development. One of the things I enjoy most about Bohjalian as an author, is his ability to write his characters in a way that is believable. Emily comes to life on the pages; she is difficult, irrational and a character I liked spending time with.
Clocking in at a little under 300 pages, I don’t think I would have liked any more or less. While Emily, as the the protagonist, is front and center, it would have been nice for some of the other characters to be a little bit more fleshed out. Yet, at the same time it works– the story is being told from a somewhat self-centered teen, and life becomes very transient following the accident.
One random thought: As someone who does not have a scientific background (I still don’t understand the how microwaves work…), I struggled with understanding what a nuclear meltdown looks like and how it happens. I get that there was an explosion, radioactive fallout, etc but how does that happen? What are the mechanics? Spent some time on Wikipedia afterwards which was helpful, but an appendix or some type of illustration would be cool.
Available for pre-order from Amazon.com and on shelves July 8th.
xo The Book Bird
Disclaimer: I received an advance copy for the purpose of review via the publisher.
*In fact, based on some of the subject matter, I would definitely not recommend this to younger YA readers.